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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Jorge Ferrari, a UAE-based sports photographer, couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw his iconic compatriot Diego Maradona behave like a wide-eyed child seeing Roger Federer at the 2013 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
“He came to watch Roger Federer. At the end of the match, Maradona wanted to meet Federer,” Ferrari recalled.
“So we went with him through the Dubai stadium tunnel which has all the pictures of the tournament champions and he kept stopping and kissing the Federer pictures (he has won the tournament a few times).
“When Federer eventually arrived there after the end of his match, Maradona was nearly crying. He hugged and kissed him,” Ferrari added.
“Maradona was really in awe of Federer. It was not like people like us meeting Federer, you know. It was Maradona meeting Federer. But he was super excited like he was some little kid meeting his idol.”
Maradona, arguably the greatest player ever to have kicked a ball, died at the age of 60 on Wednesday.
And Ferrari said Argentinians had been ‘expecting this’ for 20 years, referring to Maradona’s history of drug abuse and reckless lifestyle.
“We were wondering how he was still alive. We thought it was the end in 2000 when he had the cocaine-induced heart failure. So knowing his history, everyone used to wonder how he was alive. But still people were in big shock last night,” Ferrari admitted.
“In the Argentine radio I was listening to until 3am Thursday, they were saying of all the famous Argentina people (Eva Peron, Che Guevara, Lionel Messi), Maradona is the most recognised Argentinian ever in the world. In the last 40-50 years, Argentina is Maradona.
“I mean he pretty much won that 1986 World Cup single-handedly. I cannot think of any other player who has had such impact in a World Cup. Not even Pele. The influence that he had in that modest Argentina team, nobody else has had, before or after.”
Many of Ferrari’s British friends sent him messages after Maradona’s death.
“These friends usually taunt me about the ‘hand of god’ goal (against England). But last night, they were just respectful, no traces of any irony in their messages,” Ferrari said.
“That’s why I replied to one of them and said, “You guys have the queen and we have Maradona!”
A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Al Khaleej Today readers.
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